Legitimizing Illegal Spying
by Stephen Lendman
On August 15, federal district court Judge Cormac Carney dismissed a class action ACLU of Southern California/Council on Islamic American Relations (CAIR) lawsuit.
Fazaga v. FBI charges lawless FBI surveillance. More on what’s involved below. Southern California Muslims were targeted for praying to the wrong God.
In his ruling, Judge Carney didn’t say illegal surveillance hadn’t occurred. Nor did he agree that First Amendment provisions, illegal searches, privacy rights, and other constitutional principles weren’t violated.
Instead, he ruled for Washington’s “state secrets” privilege. It’s anti-democratic legal mumbo jumbo. The Justice Department and administration routinely invoke it to conceal government crimes and other abuses from scrutiny. Courts routinely go along.
In September 2010, the US Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed an extraordinary rendition lawsuit. State secrets were invoked.
Five Muslim victims sued Boeing’s Jeppesen Dataplan unit. It works cooperatively with CIA officials. It willingly and knowingly facilitates torture flights.
Mohamed v. Jeppesen Dataplan, Inc. threatened to blow the whistle on corporate America’s involvement with Washington’s torture policy. Obama promised to end it. Instead, he changed nothing Bush instituted. He continues the worst of his policies, escalated them, and piled on more of his own.
In 2007, the ACLU filed suit. It quoted a Jeppesen official saying, “We do all the extraordinary rendition flights – you know, the torture flights. Let’s face it. Some of these flights end up that way.”
The Ninth Circuit said “there is precious little Jeppesen could say about its relevant conduct and knowledge without revealing information about how the United States government does or does not conduct covert operations.”
In other words, imperial priorities trump rule of law principles. Case dismissed.
Southern California Muslims were spurned the same way. ACLU attorney Peter Bibring called the court ruling “the right to remain spied on.” Instead of upholding inviolable rule of law principles, Judge Carney claimed information disclosed might harm national security. He didn’t explain how.
At issue are fundamental constitutional rights. Yassir Fazaga and other plaintiffs charged illegal spying on Orange County, CA Muslims. FBI agents targeted an area mosque.
It used covert informant Craig Monteilh, a convicted felon, aka Farouk al-Aziz, code name Oracle. He was paid to entrap Irvine Islamic Center Muslims.
His violent jihad talk alarmed them. They obtained a restraining order against him. They also reported him to the FBI office using him.
He manufactured a terrorism-related case against a mosque member. It collapsed. The Justice Department had egg on its face. Prosecutors called an innocent man a dire threat. They do it all the time. Usually they get away with it. Innocent victims do hard time in America’s gulag.
Non-existent threats are hyped. Media hysteria creates fear. Innocent Muslims are wrongfully targeted. This time the FBI’s scheme blew up. No terrorism related charges or convictions followed.
Monteilh went public. He revealed secret FBI tactics. He said his “handlers” trained him to entrap Muslims in mosques, their homes and businesses.
Officials declined comment except to confirm he was a paid informant. Court records and other documents showed he got $177,000 tax free in 15 months.
He secretly recorded conversations. He also collected names, telephone numbers, emails, political and religious views, travel plans, and other information on hundreds of Muslims. He was told to pay special attention to community leaders and those most devout.
The FBI called its scheme Operation Flex. It was a fishing expedition. It targeted Muslims for their faith and religious practices. Its mission was to manufacture enemies out of whole cloth.
Southern California Muslims were incensed. They cited a systemic pattern of pervasive surveillance and covert entrapment. Innocent Muslims were targeted.
In February 2011, the Southern California ACLU and CAIR filed a class action lawsuit. The FBI was accused of lawlessly infiltrating and surveilling area mosques. Charges also included targeting Muslims for their faith.
First Amendment religious freedoms were violated. So were Fourth Amendment unreasonable searches and Privacy Act provisions.
Enacted in December 1974, it established a Code of Fair Information Practice. It governs the collection, maintenance, use, and dissemination of personally identifiable information about individuals maintained in federal agency records.
It prohibits disclosure of information without written consent of subject individuals. It gives them a way to access and amend documents about themselves to set the record straight in case of errors.
It offers protections now gone. Bush administration officials began eroding them. War on terror/national security priorities trump constitutional freedoms. They’re heading for elimination entirely.
The suit demanded destruction of lawlessly obtained information. Damages were also sought. Victims were denied. Injustice triumphed.
In 2006 and 2007, FBI agents planted informants in Orange County mosques. They spied to collect information and entrap Muslims. Craig Monteilh was specifically named.
The suit seeks injunctive relief on behalf of everyone bogusly targeted. It also requires the FBI to turn over or destroy all information collected through discriminatory investigations. Moreover, it wants damages for emotional stress caused.
Orange County has a vibrant Muslim community. It numbers about 120,000 residents. It’s home to America’s second largest Muslim population after Dearborn, MI. They and others practicing Islam live in America at the wrong time.
Post-9/11, they’ve been targeted to create fear. America needs enemies. War on terror mumbo jumbo followed. So have lawless imperial wars. One nation after another is ravaged. Police state laws persecute non-believers.
Freedom is fast eroding. Full-blown tyranny perhaps awaits another major state sponsored false flag attack. Expect Muslims and other enemies of choice to suffer most.
ACLU of Southern California deputy legal director, Ahilan Arulanantham, expressed disappointment about Judge Carney’s ruling.
“Every American should be deeply troubled when the government can win dismissal of a case involving the most basic constitutional rights by claiming that it is acting, in secret, in the interests of national security.”
“The notion that our basic safety requires relinquishing our most cherished liberties is as inconsistent with the Constitution as it is frightening.”
Plaintiff Yassir Fazaga said he was encouraged by effective work done to hold the FBI responsible. “(W)e will continue to work hard to make sure that the government does not continue to abuse our constitutional rights,” he added.
Hadsell Stormer Richardson & Renick attorney Reem Salahi said:
“Where plaintiffs and the informant himself describe act after act of illegal government surveillance, the government should not be allowed to skirt liability by using its wild card – state secrets.”
ACLU attorney Peter Bibring said “the state secrets privilege essentially gives the government a blank check to halt a lawsuit in its tracks.”
It’s currently being challenged in Congress. On June 18, Rep. Jerrod Nadler (D. NY) introduced legislation to limit state secrets in favor of less drastic alternatives.
HR 5956: State Secrets Protection Act seeks to “provide safe, fair, and responsible procedures and standards for resolving claims of state secrets privilege.”
The bill was referred to committee. No further action was taken. In today’s climate of fear, expect none.
Bibring calls the privilege of state secrets troubling. An early case invoking them involved a military plane crash. Decades later, the daughter of one of the pilots discovered a concealed accident report wasn’t secret. It described negligence.
Coverup tried to hide human error. At issue was embarrassment, not secrets too important to reveal. Nonetheless, Justice Department attorney Anthony Coppolino claimed doing so would disclose government motives and alert enemies. He lied and got away with it.
Bibring said he’ll appeal. “In our democratic society,” he explained, “it is wrong for the courts to allow the government to avoid defending the legality of its conduct under the Constitution when the rights of hundreds of law-abiding” Muslims or any others are at risk.
An ACLU statement called invoking state secrets to dismiss a civil rights lawsuit unprecedented. Attorney General Eric Holder demanded it.
Doing so absolves FBI lawlessness. Judge Carney’s ruling legitimizes unconstitutional practices. If appeals fail, they’ll stand.
Henceforth, anyone can be targeted for any reason or none at all. State secrets matter more than rule of law principles and justice. America’s on a fast track to tyranny. There’s no place to hide.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
His new book is titled “How Wall Street Fleeces America: Privatized Banking, Government Collusion and Class War”
Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.